148: Do you hear what I hear?

Probably not.  We all have slightly different physiology, and that's particularly evident in our hearing especially as we age.  Hearing tests will show quite different responses to frequency range.  I'm deaf in one ear and with damaged hearing in the other, as the result of surgery about 15 years ago.  I've seen my brain create sounds where none are there and modify sounds to match what my memory expects.  it's fascinating, thrilling and disorienting.  What does this mean in electronic music where so much of the output is intuited through exploring different sound modules?  I have no idea what you're hearing and really very little what I'm hearing.  More to come...working on a new piece with accompanying lecture due out this next week or so.  

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Toothache, and Chod practice

At the center of the Chod practice are two 'feasts'.  In the first (the White First) I visualize my  heart melting in a cauldron made from my own skull.  The second feast, the Red Feast, the flesh is cut from my bones and laid.  The White Feast is a distillation, the Red Feast is dismemberment.  My somatic body recognizes the experience - head cut open (twice), most recently, a grapefruit (benign) taken from the vagus nerve.

 Chod practice, like all practice, prepares the practitioner for the path of enlightenment, but  with particular attention to the immanence of our own death.

I've had a persistent and difficult to diagnose throat infection.   Several courses of antibiotic treatment cleared up a some secondary symptoms, but couldn't budge the sore throat.   I figured  this was the arrival of another benign but poorly placed tumor.  Then a few weeks ago, I woke up with a toothache.  And I mean an ache, something Dickensian.   I've never experienced anything like it without a self-administered morphine drip. 

I blame a lot on the breathing tubes inserted during surgery and the drainage pumps sucking out my chest while I was in recovery.  I think that tube cracked my tooth on the way out, and I've been suffering a buildup of consequences in my ear, nose and throat.  I'm not a doctor, and no doctor would substantiate what I just said.   But there you go, what do they know. 

I recognize that I'm  holding onto a seed of blame and anger passed through filters of aggreivance, injustice and general irascibility.  I can look at my responses to the experience in one of three ways.  I  can renounce it; I can transform it; or I can self-liberate

If I renounce anger, I can seek  to avoid situations that generate anger.  If I find anger arising, I can practice to settle the anger in my mind.  If the anger arises, I can choose not to respond to  the emtotion, which will plant a new seed for future action.  This is sutra.

If I practice to transform anger, I will recognize the inherent emptiness of the emotion which in that moment could open up a profound realisation through the unification of emptiness and bliss.  This is tantra.

If I self-liberate, I recognize the reality of non-dual perception where anger is not anger.  This is dzogchen.

Physical pain has the same set of potentials, and Chod is a powerful practice to transform.   What I did, I  dosed myself with percocet and avoided not just the pain but also the practice.  Oh well, maybe next time.

On Friday morning, I had  a root canal which helped some but couldn't fix the crack they found  down the middle of my tooth.  On Monday at 4pm, my dentist pulled the damn thing out and everything got better.    I'd lost 7 pounds in 3 days, stripped my knuckles to the bone when I fell over walking the dogs (blame the drugs), threw up the first food I ate after 72 hours (blame the drugs), and didn't shower for what felt like weeks (mea cupla).  I had locked jaw, swollen glands and irritated bowels.  It would have been better for everyone to just leave me out for sky burial on Penn Avenue.

I could have offered up my remains to be used for ritual instruments.  Chod practice begins with 3 blasts on a  trumpet traditionally made from the femur of a practitioner.  Unexpectedly, my dentist let me keep the tooth, which I soaked in peroxide for a day and a night  and now have on my altar.   I don't have a bone kangling (yet) but I do have my own tooth/bone on the altar.

Different species of spectral composition

If we listen to a piece of music, it unfolds as a time-laden event.  If we consider that same piece as a spectrum, we can intuitively interact with it as a single form abstracted from linear chronology.

 Here is a spectrum taken from a recording of Mahler’s second symphony (“Urlicht”).  

  Urlicht complete

The spectrum is an analytical artifact.  It reveals patterns, relationships, form.  I could zoom in and show details down to the fraction of a second - digital technology allows us to interrogate sound outside of time limited only by patience and a bit of discretionary cash.

Now.  Imagine if Mahler had begun with that image, and set about composing a piece to reveal the same form.  The compositional logic would be determined by the  visual form - not by the harmonic language, the melodic/psychologic  variations of late Vienna:  the piece composed so that a performance would have this and only this entirely specific spectral form.

Let’s consider three different species of spectral composition. 

An evolution of impressionism, a meticulous crafting of harmonics to create a specific timbre.  May mirror an existing instrument, or create an elaborate and complex evolution of sound.  Although most of the music I think of as spectral is composed using electronic means, dive in to  the composer  Giacinto Scelsi who has used orchestral resources to create music that is governed by spectral considerations. 

Here, the spectrum is a  visual representation of form meaningful in terms of  structure or  architecture.  To help think through these ideas, I set myself the task of writing a series of pieces where the spectral building blocks are a series of rectangles.  Various sizes, some filled, some outlined with lines of different thickness.  Placed higher or lower on the frequency spectrum, overlapping or intersecting.  Overall relationships can be determined by mathematical formula.  Not being particularly adept with numbers, I choose  series like Fibonacci applied to duration (length) and frequency (height).  I worked with pure sine waves or blocks of static, and think in terms of weaving warp and woof across the spectrum.  

It is the idea that structure is a musically dominant element.  Xenakis the composer studied with Corbusier the architect.  Two interesting anecdotes:  first, Corbusier influenced the development of Pittsburgh (here, from an old Post Gazette article)

"French architect Le Corbusier, a Modernist, provided the archetype for countless urban renewal projects with his "Radiant City" concept -- a set of tall apartment and office towers surrounded by parks and superhighways.

"The whole city is a park," the architect once said."

Second:  as I sat here to write this blog, I couldn't for the life of me remember Corbusier.  I kept Googling 'Courvoisier' and wondering what the hell I was thinking.

This is another of my bastardized coinages.   Noia is greek for mind, and Meta is greek for ‘on steroids’.  Metanoia is a laser beam that cuts through the cerebral cortex.  Noia also appears  as the ‘noo’ in Noosphere.  

Metanoic Spectral Composition, asides from being a term that rolls over  your lips like ice cream and unfiltered Camels,  is an approach to the spectrum where the source of the visual material is more important than  the sonic output.     Ask the question:  what would the shape of Pittsburgh’s 16th street bridge sound like?  What would a spectrum taken from Sylvia Plath’s handwriting sound like,with  the spectrum of her voice reading the same text?  The  possibility for conceptual   counterpoint is considerable. 

It all requires a willingness to manipulate the technology towards a definitie if not predetermined aesthetic that  makes sure you don’t end up with crap because of too doctrinaire a commitment to the idea of it all.  

When it works, it is galactic.  Aphex Twin made an awesome track using a picture of his face.

I took an MRI of my head - the MRI where they first identified my NF2, you can see the right acoustic neuroma.  Analyzed, considered, composed with it until it became this piece, as yet untitled, but working with something  like “Galactic Mindfuck”.  It's long, over 20 minutes and is a bit unrelenting.  But I like it.

This is deeply personal, this metanoic spectral composition, it is. The composer might be is a technologist, might may be a shaman, eschataologival (outside of time, towards the end of time), fetishizing the sonic artifact.  It is a deeply romantic approach to composition.  Revealing the connections of memory.  The apperceptions of memory, the aura around a human that is the form of life (the spectral analysis of a life).